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OPINION: A look at labor this holiday

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The past several months have seen a number of shifts in how people in this state work. Many were able to go back to work when the stay-at-home order closing some aspects of businesses changed to safer-at-home allowing many businesses to fully reopen.

Some of us have jobs that required we work through all stages of the COVID-19 pandemic as long as we remained healthy. This may have meant working from home. For essential workers, such as medical staff and delivery services, work load may have actually increased.

This Labor Day it is interesting to reflect on how work and work environments have changed since it was made a national holiday in 1894.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day was first observed by union workers in 1882 and had been adopted by several states before being recognized on the federal level.

Workers in those days had fewer options and protections than workers today. Minimum wage and unemployment benefits would not be created by Congress until the 1930s. Benefits that have likely been lifesavers during this crazy year when many people could not work for at least a little while because of closures or layoffs.

It can be difficult to imagine what it must have been like to work in a factory in the 1800s— a time when children who we now think of as just old enough to start kindergarten were working long hours in factories.

Thanks to workers who wanted change, we have come a long way from those working conditions, and there are many more opportunities available.

Just as laws regarding work brought change, in more recent years, technology has also changed the way Americans work. Most jobs with a major company now require an application be submitted online, and many jobs require basic computer skills.

Lately, I have also been thinking about how work and leadership opportunities have increased for those stereotypically barred from certain positions. Both newspapers I have worked at have had women in leadership roles. Again, these changes would not have been possible without workers who wanted change.

Think about the work you do each day. Are you where you want to be? During a pandemic may seem like an odd time to make a change, but, in this season, change will most likely find you. You might as well be the one to pick what it looks like.

Happy Labor Day!